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Pitcherplant Savanna at Sunset

Pitcherplant Savanna at Sunset

This is one of our favorite photos of a pitcherplant savanna. We had discovered this recently burned savanna earlier in the day. When we returned in the late evening, the dewthreads glittered in the setting sun's rays to create a magnificent scene. Each year we check this savanna which we call "the secret place," but we haven't seen it as lovely as on that first day.

The Praying Mantis and the Gulf Fritillary

Praying Mantis eating Gulf FritillaryStagmomantis carolina
We witnessed this Carolina Mantis capture this unsuspecting Gulf Fritillary when it went to nectar on the pickerelweed.

We were walking along a trail with our friends and had stopped to admire a nice batch of pickerelweed that was growing in the water near a small wooden bridge on a trail. We were enjoying and photographing the many butterflies that were nectaring on the pickerelweed. Then I looked down into the water and say many butterfly wings floating on its surface. I knew then that a praying mantis had to be nearby.

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Carnivorous Encounters

Carolina Mantis on PitcherplantStagmomantis carolina
A praying mantis on a yellow trumpet pitcherplant was an unexpected sight in a pitcherplant savannah.

You walk through the savanna looking for the trumpets of pitcherplants that are poking through the grasses. You peer into each pitcher’s trumpet with the expectation of finding a pitcher plant moth or caterpillar (Exyra sp.) that lives in the trumpet of the pitcher plant.

More often, you only see carcasses of other insects that have fallen to the base of the trumpet. During lovebug season, the trumpets can be filled to the brim! After a doomed insect slides down the slippery side of the trumpet, it cannot escape and dies. Its carcass is “digested” by the carnivorous plant.

This praying mantis was our reward for investigating the savanna. Perched atop the trumpet of a Yellow Pitcherplant (Sarracenia flava), she was waiting patiently for her next meal. The pitcherplant provided her a high vantage point to use her very keen eyesight to spot approaching prey. The praying mantis may spend hours perched motionless waiting for a chance to grab an unsuspecting insect between her powerful front legs.

The praying mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is quite common from Virginia to Florida in the autumn. Look for this insect in the upper clusters of flowers, especially those in the aster family. The flowers attract butterflies and other insects that feed on the flowers’ nectar.